The last quarter of 2023 provided the opportunity to learn about how the United States fosters equity, diversity and inclusion in business development and sustainability for Black entrepreneurs. By way of an invitation from the U.S. Department of State, a small group of Black Canadian business and nonprofit organization leaders went to the United States for meetings with key thought leaders and officials in the Black Entrepreneurship space as part of their International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).


During the 11-day learning exchange program, I had the privilege of exploring the storied history of Black entrepreneurship to navigate how the Sustainable Development Goals are effectively being implemented and utilized through People and Partnerships for Prosperity. 


Visiting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; St. Petersburg, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia, three very culturally and politically diverse cities with thriving local economies provided the opportunity to assess how innovative investment models inclusive of Community Benefit Agreements influence the capacity of Black businesses to thrive within an ecosystem that is intentionally designed for maximum success with people and communities as the driving force.


Public, private and community stakeholder partnerships was a key feature across industries that created cohesive and intentional pathways for entrepreneurial success and longevity. The diversity of business development spanned industries including government relations for political engagement and lobbying, supply chain procurement and innovative service delivery models through academic institutional pipelines and creative state sponsored approaches for community development. 


I had the opportunity to learn about how the Enterprise Centre supports micro, small and medium-sized enterprises evolve from the start-up phase to scaling with a focus on capital and investments initiatives for entrepreneurs who were involved in diverse business ventures. Person within the environment-centred planning was the foundation for innovation, highlighting the power of understanding where the greatest impact can be experienced for the entrepreneurs specifically and the ecosystem generally. 


It was encouraging for me as a social entrepreneur to listen to the Enterprise Centre team discuss how they systematically provide person in the environment training. Topics such as financial intelligence (rather than financial literacy) and working with any level of funding access (recognizing how difficult it is for minority business owners to access capital) was a nuanced approach that empowers micro and small business owners to navigate how to make incremental business decisions as well as financial forecasting for where they are currently at in their business lifecycle and for where they want to see their business in the next ten to fifteen years.


Innovation for Business to Government partnerships was headlined by Bellevue Strategies at the intersection of economic incentives for workforce development in the public service. The services provided by Bellevue Strategies was a standout for me from a Canadian experience perspective, as the Black entrepreneurship ecosystem in Canada seems to be more heavily focused on the marketing of goods and services from business to business, with little to no focus on pathways to government to business contract procurement.